Author Archive


April 29, 2009


In 1963, the National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee awarded Bob Dylan with it’s Tom Paine Award “in recognition of distinguished service in the fight for civil liberty.”  At the awards dinner Dylan caused quite a stir with an usual, and by some accounts, unintelligable acceptance speech.  Reading the transcript, Dylan definitely seems to ramble in parts, however, for the most part the gist of what he was getting at is still cogent today.  What follows is a cut-and-paste complilation of  what I think really should become the platform of a new movement–one independent of parties and candidates and slogans and all the things that reduce individuals to parts of the whole, that make people labels and affliations.  Considering the mess we’re in due, in large part, to the greed and ineptitude of those govern in Washington as well as those who pull the strings of our casion-style economy, this speech is as timely now as it was then:

I haven’t got any guitar, I can talk though. I want to thank you for the Tom Paine award in behalf everybody that went down to Cuba. First of all because they’re all young and it’s took me a long time to get young and now I consider myself young. And I’m proud of it. I’m proud that I’m young. And I only wish that all you people who are sitting out here today or tonight weren’t here and I could see all kinds of faces with hair on their head – and everything like that, everything leading to youngness, celebrating the anniversary when we overthrew the House Un-American Activities just yesterday, – Because you people should be at the beach. You should be out there and you should be swimming and you should be just relaxing in the time you have to relax. (Laughter) It is not an old peoples’ world. It is not an old peoples’ world. It has nothing to do with old people. Old people when their hair grows out, they should go out. (Laughter) And I look down to see the people that are governing me and making my rules – and they haven’t got any hair on their head – I get very uptight about it. (Laughter).

There’s no black and white, left and right to me anymore; there’s only up and down and down is very close to the ground. And I’m trying to go up without thinking about anything trivial such as politics. They has got nothing to do with it. I’m thinking about the general people and when they get hurt.


Step Into The Light, The Light

April 29, 2009

For those who have seen “The Devil and Daniel Johnston,” you know that beneath Johnston’s seemingly simple and catchy songs there lurks a darkness.  His body of work is made all the more impressive that it was produced while battling severe depression as well as a number of other psychological disorders.

This song got stuck in my head the other day while listening to Pandora radio.  I can’t stop listening to it.  It’s strange.  On the surface it comes off as an optimistic appeal to all the lonely people, but upon repeated listens there’s a unmistakable despear that belies that message, like he doesn’t totally believe what he’s singing, but hoping like hell it’s true.  I don’t know, take a listen, see if doesn’t get stuck in your head too.


April 23, 2009

(bio from this site)

Huddie William Ledbetter was born on January 29, 1885 on the Jeter Plantation near Mooringsport, Louisiana. He was the only child of his parents Wesley and Sally. Huddie and his parents moved to Leigh, Texas when he was five and it was there that he became interested in music, encouraged by his uncle Terrell who bought Huddie his first musical instrument, an accordion.

It was some years later when Huddie picked up the guitar but by the age of 21 he had left home to wander around Texas and Louisiana trying to make his living as a musician. Over the next ten years Huddie wandered throughout the southwest eking out an existence by playing guitar when he could and working as a laborer when he had to.

Huddie Ledbetter was the world’s greatest cotton picker, railroad track liner, lover, and drinker as well as guitar player. This assertion came from no less an authority on the matter than Huddie himself. Since not everyone agreed with his opinion Huddie frequently found himself obliged to convince them. His convincing frequently landed him in jail.

In 1916 Huddie was in jail in Texas on assault charges when he escaped. He spent the next two years under the alias of Walter Boyd. But then after he killed a man in a fight he was convicted of murder and sentenced to thirty years of hard labor at Huntsville, Texas’ Shaw State Prison Farm. After seven years he was released after begging pardon from the governor with a song:

Please, Governor Neff, Be good ‘n’ kind
Have mercy on my great long time…
I don’t see to save my soul
If I don’t get a pardon, try me on a parole…
If I had you, Governor Neff, like you got me
I’d wake up in the mornin’ and I’d set you free

Pat Neff was convinced by the song and by Huddie’s assurances that he’d seen the error of his ways. Huddie left Huntsville a free man. But in 1930 he was arrested, tried, and convicted of attempted homicide.

It was in the Louisiana State Penitentiary in July 1933 that Huddie met folklorist John Lomax and his son Alan who were touring the south for the Library of Congress collecting unwritten ballads and folk songs using newly available recording technology. The Lomaxes had discovered that Southern prisons were among the best places to collect work songs, ballads, and spirituals but Leadbelly, as he now called himself, was a particular find.

Over the next few days the Lomaxes recorded hundreds of songs. When they returned in the summer of 1934 for more recordings Leadbelly told them of his pardon in Texas. As Allen Lomax tells it, “We agreed to make a record of his petition on the other side of one of his favorite ballads, ‘Goodnight Irene’. I took the record to Governor Allen on July 1. On August 1 Leadbelly got his pardon. On September 1 I was sitting in a hotel in Texas when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I looked up and there was Leadbelly with his guitar, his knife, and a sugar bag packed with all his earthly belongings. He said, ‘Boss, you got me out of jail and now I’ve come to be your man'”

In 1935 Lomax took Leadbelly North where he became a sensation. Leadbelly remained Leadbelly. After hearing Cab Calloway sing in Harlem he announced that he could “beat that man singin’ every time”. His inclination toward violent resolution of conflicts, though mellowed, lead to threatening Lomax with a knife which effectively ended their friendship. Nevertheless by 1940 Leadbelly had become well known in the recording industry. Over the next 9 years Leadbelly’s fame and success continued to increase until he fell ill while on a European Tour. Tests revealed that he suffered from lateral sclerosis and he died on December 6, 1949.


Revolutionary Branding

April 21, 2009


I remember the first time I saw that famous photograph of Che Guevara.  It was in the liner of notes of a Rage Against the Machine album.  I was 15 or so and had no idea who he was, what he had done, why he was famous, but I immediately liked him.  There’s just something about that photo that makes you idolize–and idealize–him without knowing anything about what he stood for, what he meant.   I’m older now and I know better, but sometimes when I see that image there’s a part of me that still feels a little bit of that old romantic revolutionary spirit, that tingle –especially when it’s giggly down a runway on Giselle’s rear end.


In Che’s Afterlife, Micheal Casey “traces how Korda’s photograph became one of the most widely disseminated images in the world, how Che went from being a symbol of resistance to the capitalist system to one of the most marketable and marketed brands around the globe, how the guerrilla fighter became a logo as recognizable as the Nike swoosh or McDonald’s golden arches.”

(from NYT)


April 20, 2009


by Mr. Fish: Harper’s

Heed It Well, Ye Pantheists!

March 25, 2009

In 1982, Les Blank made a documentary about Werner Herzog and the production of his film Fitzcarraldo.  Filmed in the jungles of South America, the filming of Fitzcarraldo has become legendary for not only its audacious vision, but also for the seemingly endless series obstacles it had to overcome.  I believe seven people died shooting this flim, which may have something to do with Herzog’s perception of nature and the jungle:

Guilty Pleasures

March 5, 2009

30 Rock.

This Pretty Much Sums It Up

February 11, 2009



February 6, 2009

From Genesis:

1And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.

2And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.

3And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter. tower-of-babel

4And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.

5And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.

6And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.

7Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.

8So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.

9Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.

Ludwik Zamenhof sought to correct this.  A successful ophthalmologist and part-time philologist, Zamenhof, in 1887, published Unua Libro which introduced to the world Esperanto, a new language that he hoped would be adopted for international use.  It was Zamenhof’s goal that Esperanto would take hold as an international “second language” to be utilized for everything from business transactions to diplomacy.  Zamenhof believed many conflicts could be avoided and resolved if all parties had a neutral, unbiased universal language by which to communicate.  It was never his intention to replace any language with Esperanto; it was intended solely as a secondary, supplemental language. Tremendously simple, it is easily learned.  Today there are over a million people fluent in Esperanto.  Books and magazines have been published using it. It never took hold as the “official” international language that Zamenhof hoped, but it still lives on among a small, but devoted group of speakers around the world.

Here is a clip from “Incubus,” the only movie known to have been made using Esperanto:

Yes, that is William Shatner.


February 3, 2009

Easily the greatest press conference of all time by the greatest boxer athlete of all time.